• Anne Woods-Tinkum

Fibromyalgia: Part III|Understanding the Pain

Updated: Jan 5, 2021

Photo by JR Korpa on Unsplash

Welcome to the third blog installment on the condition of Fibromyalgia. I’ve discussed a few ideas for looking at the condition of Fibromyalgia in my past two blogs, Unraveling the Mystery and Refurbishing the House . In this blog I will deepen and build upon the analogy of refurbishing a dilapidated house as a treatment plan for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue. We are offering a revolutionary program at Inspiration Point. It walks patients, step by step, through each of the 8 stages of healing. The most profound part of this program is that it is a co-collaborative process. Meaning that your participation is just as important (if not more) than the practitioner’s role. We want to facilitate your process and teach you how to heal yourself, ultimately allowing you to become freer and freer of external care. Your life is worth more than spending it in a doctor’s office. This program requires patients who are excited and enlivened by getting to know their pain and learning how to give themselves deep self-care. It is an international, evidence-based, integrative wellness program specifically designed for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue. It incorporates Acupuncture, Movement Therapy, Breath-work, premium grade Medicinal Herbal Teas and much more. We understand how you suffer from the storm of Fibromyalgia, and we can help you develop the tools to cultivate calm and keep peace in your body. But before I can talk about the tools, we'll need to get to know and understand the pain.

The Body Can Feel Like a Hurricane Hit It when it suffers with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, or any other type of Chronic Pain. And when a house has been hit by a hurricane there are steps you can take to ensure that it is safe and livable. If these steps are taken in a specific order, the progress will be quick and effective. Do them out of order and it leads to an even more frustrating loop: starting over and over again.

If the moldy carpet in your dilapidated house gets ripped out and replaced, the inside of the house is going to look better. But if the roof leaks and the windows haven’t been repaired, guess what’s going to happen to the carpet the next time it rains. You could put up fresh new drywall over the shorted-out electrical wiring, and it’ll look cleaner, but it still won’t be functional. This is the same thing many Fibromyalgia sufferers experience when trying new treatments/diets/exercise plans. They may feel better at first, but the symptoms quickly return. What worked last week is not working this week.


Let's Talk About the First Four Stages

Stage 1: Immune Hypersensitivity

The first step to repairing a dilapidated house is to block the water from entering the house. We've got to seal the roof and the windows to create and maintain a barrier from the outer climate to prevent mold, insects and small animals from coming in to do further damage. To do this in the human body we first work with the immune system. Regulating the immune system response plays a crucial role in fibromyalgia pain management.

Imagine having a flu. The aches and pains follow a similar pattern due to the generalized immune response. Imagine the complete loss of energy, stiff neck, mental fogginess and lethargy. This is essentially what is happening with your body in the immune-dysregulation stage of Fibromyalgia.

The pain itself comes when the immune system perceives a pathogen. It responds with inflammation that causes muscle contraction similar to the way you might get a stiff neck when getting a fever. (This is due to increased cytokine, nitric oxide and homocysteine levels⏤science that I’ll delve into in a later blog for those of you who geek out on that stuff.) The muscle tension further limits lymphatic drainage which can contribute to challenges with water retention and sweating.

This particular type of fibromyalgia pain wanders from place to place as the non-specific immunity tries to respond non-specifically to the pathogen. When this mechanism plays a predominant role in the development of fibromyalgia, people experience pain that changes with temperature fluctuations. It also tends to be worse during allergy or cold seasons. This pain tends to linger in the joints and upper back.

Key Signs:

  • Stiff neck and/or frozen shoulder

  • Swollen lymphatic tissue

  • Chills

  • Aches

  • Tiredness


Stage 2: Gut Dysbiosis

Poor gut balance leads to systemic inflammation causing fatigue and pain symptoms. It is similar to stage one, except that the cause is primarily dietary, rather than caused by antigens. It is associated with poor water metabolism.

Think of a flooded basement. Now imagine that the basement is in a Florida swamp and sits at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the human body with water retention. Just as a hot swamp may have swamp gas, mosquitoes and plenty of fungi, the human body will likewise begin to develop poisonous gases, pathogenic organisms and plenty of fungi.

This is a waterlogged body (like living in a house sitting in a few feet of water). You can probably smell the moldy books and decay. Life in such a house would be very slow and it would be difficult to get anything done. The human body is like this. Water retention impedes healing and leads to systemic fungal infections.

When these symptoms are predominant, people experience pain that feels heavy; the skin and muscles feel soggy due to water retention, and it is often accompanied with a mental fog. In severe cases, it can result in edema.

Key Signs:

  • Irritable bowel disorder

  • Loose stools

  • Edema

  • Water retention

  • Fibro fog

  • Symptoms worse in moist or hot weather

  • Generalized headache

  • Need to remind yourself to drink

  • Fatigue

  • Chronic fungal infections

  • Allergies or chronic sinusitis


Stage 3: Nitric Oxide Dysregulation and with Elevated Cortisol.

Buildup of nitric oxide associated with sleep deprivation, stress and emotional trauma is associated with chronic pain, stress disorders, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Think of it in terms of turning on all the electronics on in your house. They are all dialed up. The TV, radio and blender are all running at full speed. The lights are on and too much power is running through them. It would drain electricity. The wires would get hot and start to deteriorate. Light bulbs begin to burn out. It would be impossible to sleep. This is your body with elevated nitric oxide. This tends to manifest in two ways based in regards to the fight or flight mechanism:

Pain In The Shoulders

Fight response. You aren’t allowed to punch or claw, which is your natural response. It builds up and doesn’t get used. It creates long-term tension that begins in the shoulders.

Pain In The Lower Back

This is the flight response. Energy surges to the legs, but you have nowhere to run. The tension builds in the lower back.

With the increased oxidation, the liver loses efficiency in processing cortisol, so these stress hormones build up in the bloodstream causing a repetition of traumatic feelings. Initially, sufferers have trouble getting to sleep, but as the oxidative damage begins to destroy the liver, kidneys, and nervous system, they begin to wake up between the hours of 1:00-3:00 AM and have an increase in vivid dreams, or in severe cases, nightmares. In an effort to release some of the built-up nitric oxide, the body will tend to cause people to sigh in order to self-regulate. With high stress and deregulated nitric oxide, the body suffers nerve pain.

Key Signs:

  • Accompanied with sleep deprivation and insomnia

  • Pain is improved by moving

  • Often associated with irritable bowel disorder

  • Pain is worse with sitting and with stress and poor sleep

  • Most common cause of fibromyalgia


Stage 4: Prostaglandin Dysregulation (disrupted circulation)

Imagine the home of a hoarder. Their hallways are filled with stacks of junk. Junk that blocks the broom closet and prevents you from reaching the cleaning supplies. Stacks of papers by the stove occasionally catch fire. Old dolls mold in the basement. The attic is occupied by dust, spiders and other vermin. The pipes are backed up. Toilets overflow. Sewer gases permeate the house. Over time, the walls begin to rot. This is the body when blood circulation has been interrupted. It feels like your entire body is bruised and suffers intermittent stabbing pain. This is a condition of stagnation.

Key Signs:

  • Pain is worse in the morning

  • Accompanied with morning stiffness

  • Pain that is sharp, stabbing and wakes you at night

  • Improves with increased blood circulation

  • Associated with chronic injuries, menstrual disorders, fibroids and spider veins

This is pretty intense stuff and it is no surprise that this condition is frustrating to describe to doctors. Do they want to hear about the wandering pain, the heavy pain, the nerve pain or the stabbing pain? Depending on the day of the week, one might be better and the others worse. Get in touch with us if you identify with any of the stages and stay tuned for stages 5-8 in our next blog.

If you are not sure which stage applies to you, schedule a free Fibromyalgia consult, and take our quiz that helps identify where you and how we can help you move through the pain, or join us for a free talk on Saturday September 8th.

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